Wallace Neff was one of the most successful – and longest practicing – architects in Southern California’s premier neighborhoods for many reasons. He could design a mansion in virtually any architectural style: Spanish Colonial Revival, French Norman, English Medieval, and Monterey Colonial. He understood how to give his clients both an impressive residence and a comfortable family home for daily living. He knew how to work with the era’s best landscape architects and design a mansion that complemented its site perfectly, no site was too challenging for his skills.
For screenwriter Frances Marion and cowboy star Fred Thomson, he transformed a dramatic – but seemingly unbuildable property on Angelo Drive into the famed estate called Enchanted Hill. At the end of 1924, Neff got a telephone call from film director Fred Niblo, who had just purchased another dramatic Angelo Drive property below Enchanted Hill. It had views that stretched from the Pacific Ocean to downtown Los Angeles, with Holmby Hills and Beverly Hills below.
Niblo and his second wife, actress Enid Bennett, were already living in a since-demolished Tudor-style mansion at 805 North Crescent Drive, just a block below Sunset Boulevard and the Beverly Hills Hotel. They had been two of the very first “movie people” to move to Beverly Hills. By 1924, when they contacted Neff, they could easily afford to “move up” - to a grand Angelo Drive mountaintop.Niblo became a successful Broadway actor, and he married into what was then the First Family of the American theater - the famous Four Cohan’s, of whom George M. Cohan was the star. George’s sister, Josephine, had started in vaudeville at the tender age of seven. She moved up to Broadway with her multitalented brother’s success. Niblo married Josephine in 1901 and became an associate in the famous partnership of Cohan and (Sam) Harris. Niblo and Josephine traveled and performed around the world, he later boasted that he had appeared on stage in every English-speaking country. Following Josephine’s death in Australia, where she and Niblo had been performing for three years, he turned